Well, as always the Patriots were atop the headlines for this year’s offseason. They made some interesting draft picks and went big in free agency signing and trading for some key guys. Not to mention the Pats even released some big names. The Patriots were by far the best team in the regular season last year claiming a 14-2 record, yet they weren’t able to make it past the second round of the playoffs losing to their rival Jets. Obviously there were some holes that needed to be filled and that’s what the Patriots tried to fix this offseason.
Let’s start with the draft. The Patriots didn’t do anything too special, just drafted what they needed including getting offensive lineman Nate Solder out of Colorado in the 1st round. They also had two 2nd round picks taking CB Ras-I Dowling and RB Shane Vereen out of Virginia and California respectively. These were not surprise picks and were pretty much just value picks for what they need thinking about the future. However, one of the big topics of this year’s draft was where were all the top QBs going to go? There were some rumors the Pats were going to take QB Jake Locker in the late first or early second round and work him to be their future QB. However, the Pats ended up passing on Locker and drafted QB Ryan Mallett out of Arkansas in the 3rd round. This to me was quite a surprise, but I think a great pick. Mallett I think is going to fit better in the Patriots system down the road and will learn the offense faster than Locker will just considering the fact that Mallett is more of a pocket-passer than Locker is. Plus the Patriots could take Mallett in the 3rd rather than having to take Locker as a 1st or 2nd. Aside from Mallett, there were no real surprises, and I think the Patriots had a slightly above average draft.
Now, the offseason is where things got interesting. The Patriots were a heavy passing team last year as they always have been, but after losing Moss, their passing attack changed a bit. Brady started using both his rookie tight ends as crucial pass catchers as well as the newly acquired, at the time, WE Deion Branch. RB Danny Woodhead also added a big spark out of the backfield, being available to catch just about anything Brady threw his way. That being said, the Pats were lacking a stud receiver. Sure Wes Welker may be considered pretty good, but just has that special role in the offense as the slot receiver. So the Patriots went out and traded for 6-time pro bowler Chad Ochocinco. Interesting move to say the least. I don’t think Chad is going to be a crucial part of this offense, but will certainly help spread opposing defenses out, which will be big for Brady as well as the running game. Having another huge WR threat puts more DBs on the field and opens lanes for RBs Green-Ellis and Woodhead. This move certainly helps the offense and makes them even more dangerous, but I don’t see Chad recording more than 800 yards.
The next move the Patriots made was going out and trading for the controversial Albert Haynesworth which surprised just about everyone including myself. I think this was a fantastic move. Haynesworth has been lazy to say the least at times however has not recently played for a contending team for some time. He is known as one of the best DTs in the game when healthy and motivated, but lacked the right mindset for the past few seasons. I think the Pats going out and getting him really makes the Pats’ defense that much stronger. They were good last year, but will be much better this year with Haynesworth. I think if there is one coach to drive Albert to work hard, it’s Belichick. Haynesworth has been working hard since being acquired and I think will be a key ingredient for the Pats’ defense this coming season.
Some other notable transactions were both the signing of DE Shaun Ellis, coming from the Jets, and the release of pro-bowler safety Brandon Meriweather. Ellis is a good player that can come in every so often and mix up some defensive schemes. Meriweather, a pretty solid player in my mind, seemed to be a bit of a head case a lot of the time and just something Belichick no longer wanted to deal with.
The Patriots had a great offseason and for the most part a pretty solid preseason. Their defense is going to be well improved and their offense should be about the same if not a little better now with Ochocinco. There is no reason the Patriots shouldn’t dominate the regular season again this year. I expect them to be pretty solid going 12-4 throughout the course of the season landing them another first round bye. Of course I think they Pats will come out atop the AFC and will make it to the Super Bowl, however the NFC is once again strong and whoever would face the Pats would certainly give them a run for their money.
Stay tuned for another, shorter, post tomorrow discussing the Patriots and Dolphins Monday Night matchup.
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Written by David Reid